Saturday, June 2, 2012

June 1, 2012 - a long drive

Not much to report for the class activities on Friday, June 1, or Saturday, June 2.  The students participating in the Navajo Oral History project have a couple days to prepare for their fieldwork. They are doing internet and library research on the Navajo elders they will be meeting in a few days. (Or, in at least one case, posting funny videos to Facebook -- you know who you are.)

At the same time, Prof. Tom Grier is driving from Minnesota to meet the WSU students at the Albuquerque, New Mexico, airport on Sunday.  For more than 1,200 miles, it's just Grier, loud music, and tons of camera and camping equipment in a van cruising the back roads of the United States.

I like to avoid the interstate highways, and take the smaller roads for two reasons: You see a lot more of the real U.S. that way, and it helps keep me awake. Driving on interstate highways is easier, and a bit faster, but much more boring.  Along the way, I stop in towns that are county seats, and take photos of their courthouses.  In small towns, the courthouse is an important fixture of culture and social life.  They are monuments to a civilized society.

I won't bore blog readers (who came here to see information about student projects and Navajo culture) with lots of courthouse photos.  Here's one I took on Friday:

This is the Madison County Courthouse in Winterset, Iowa. It's the oldest of the 13 courthouses I saw on Friday.  Built in 1876, this beautiful building has been well-maintained and presides over a mostly rural region of Iowa known more in recent years for its covered bridges.  In Winterset, I also saw a huge statue of American actor John Wayne and the house where he was born.  Strangely, I didn't take photos of those attractions.  They now reside solely in my visual memory.

Along my drive, I continually popped headache pills and slurped cough medicine, trying to beat into submission the virus I picked up last week in Winona. 600 miles down, about 750 more to go.

On Sunday afternoon, I'll meet the WSU students who are flying into the Albuquerque airport, and we'll drive about four hours to the Navajo Reservation and the campus of Diné College which will serve as our home base for the next 3 weeks.  That's when the real learning and fun of this adventure will take place.


  1. 13 Courthouses? and I thought by now you would have gone every possible way!! That is AWESOME! Great Job Tom, and safe travels.

  2. And I shot 17 more today! I think I'm up to about 350 courthouses across the nation.